Vacationers Largely Unfazed by String of Disasters
SEMINYAK ~ Foreign tourist arrivals to Bali were up more than 35 percent in January compared to the same period a year ago, official government statistics show.
By William J Furney
The Bali Times
With staff reporter Rian Dewanto
A total of 115,557 foreigners arrived in Bali during the first month of the year, according to figures from the Central Statistics Bureau, showing a boost to the tourism-dependant island that has bounced back from turbulence during recent years.
The higher visitor numbers reflect the growing allure of Bali as a leading global destination, analysts said.
The rising level of confidence among overseas travelers is also seen in the islandâ€™s economy, which according to the local office of the Investment Coordinating Board has been experiencing incremental increases in foreign investment in recent years.
Cok Oka Arta Ardana Sukawati, deputy head of the Bali Tourism Board and chief of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Associationâ€™s Bali chapter, says the number of foreign arrivals to Bali signals a return to previous boom times.
â€œSeen from the indicators such as the number of arrivals and the good relationship and cooperation between those involved in the tourism industry here, who are working to boost tourism, I would say that currently tourism in Bali is in good shape,â€ he told The Bali Times on Thursday.
He said the board was in the midst of working out strategies to deal with problems in Baliâ€™s tourism that would be discussed at a general meeting in April.
â€œ… there are a few problems that keep cropping up each year, such as unofficial guides and hotel developments that disobey the rules.
â€œWeâ€™re planning to coordinate with the government to deal with these problems. Right now, everyone involved in Bali tourism is talking about their problems, and together weâ€™re going to solve them,â€ said Sukawati.
Vacationers here, meanwhile, said they were not put off Bali by any negativity affecting other parts of the country, such as the Sumatra earthquake earlier this week and the crash of a Garuda Indonesia airplane in Yogyakarta.
One observer said that if the crash probe were conducted properly, it would serve to reassure nervous would-be passengers.
â€œIf Garuda and the government handle the incident in a open and transparent way, and their findings are eventually verified by Australian investigators, who, as I understand it, are analyzing the plane’s â€˜black boxâ€™ (flight recorder), then I think the damage to tourism from the Yogyakarta incident will be short term and fairly minimal,â€ Jack Daniels, president of Bali Discovery Tours, told The Times.
He cautioned, however, that there may be some foot-dragging in the investigation.
â€œSadly, however, past incidents show there is little appetite locally for aggressive public investigations, fixing responsibility on those found derelict in their work, or for final full disclosure of air traffic disaster investigation reports.
â€œLet’s hope the Yogya incident reveals a new openness among transportation accident investigators,â€ said Daniels.
Sukawati said he was distressed that the accident had happened, especially to Garuda, an airline the board had been working with to promote Bali.
â€œPersonally, I would like to suggest that people not rush to judgments about the accident … baseless statements about the cause of the crash are not helpful,â€ he said.
â€œAs Indonesians, we must fight prejudices, and show the world that we are a good and strong nation. Thankfully, in Bali we have direct flights overseas. Iâ€™m sure that it will minimize the bad effect of the accident.â€
For Max and Joy Taylor, both in their 70s, vacationing from Australia and speaking to the Times in the upmarket Petitenget area of Seminyak, natural disasters or otherwise have no impact on their decisions to repeatedly return to Bali.
â€œBali is getting nicer, especially up here (in Seminyak). Iâ€™m not put off by all the disasters at all. My son lives here, and this is the third time weâ€™ve visited Bali. Itâ€™s always been nice for me,â€ said Joy, whose son works for the WWF conservation group.
Added husband Max: â€œThere are a lot of good places to eat and drink here. But thereâ€™s still poverty in some places. There are a lot of luxurious buildings as well. So I think itâ€™s a balance. Iâ€™m not affected by all the disasters. I like it here. The people are friendly.â€